In Ephesians 6:5, Paul tells slaves to be obedient to their earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as if they were obeying Christ. In Colossians 4:1, Paul tells masters to treat their slaves justly and fairly, knowing they have a Master in heaven. Luke, who wrote the Gospel, was probably a slave because he was a physician and a Gentile; slaves did the “learning” rich people were too lazy or busy to learn, and the slaves used the knowledge for the enrichment of the master. The letter to Philemon from Paul is to inform Philemon that his runaway slave has become a believer, and Paul thinks the slave should be freed rather than killed.
It is easy for those who claim to be “watchers” over God’s law to recognize that slavery was a cultural problem Paul had to address the best way he could within this new religion called “The Way.” This is what he was doing with women, because the new church allowed them more freedom than they had ever known before and they began to take advantage of it. Devout Jewish women were not even allowed in the inner court of the Temple. Paul was addressing these problems.
Yet, when it comes to the subjugation of women, these watchers are as blind to the truth as the Pharisees. This subjugation of women is still practiced in the Middle East today, where women are treated as nothing more than animals the masters own. So when someone wants to be sure the truth is being obeyed, he or she should make sure God’s law is what’s not being obeyed, rather than culture or custom.
Judy Lovejoy Elliott